Movies based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus are plentiful, and their quality ranges from no-budget shlockers schlepping out a monster of variable make-up effects to classic variations on the original story to modern adaptations that deal with current social issues. After the premiere earlier this year of the solid birth/rebirth, we have our second impressive feature in that third category in 2023 with writer/director Bomanji J. Story’s The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster.
Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) is a bright student dealing with prejudice at her school. She believes that death is a curable disease, not the end to a life, and her views do not sit well with her science teacher. Meanwhile, Vicaria — who is no stranger to death, as both her mother and brother have died in gang-related killings — has set up her own laboratory in a condemned building not far from her home, both of which are surrounded by drug dealing and other gang activities.
Vicaria’s lab is where she attempts to bring her theories about death to reanimated life and, this being a horror film based on Frankenstinian themes, it’s no great spoiler to state here that she succeeds, but of course, not without consequences. Meanwhile, she falls afoul of local gang members, some of whom supply drugs to her father, who has been using them since the death of Vicaria’s brother. With an uncontrollable monster on her hands and the gang members threatening her, Vicaria has much to be worried about.
Story has crafted an intriguing feature that balances the Frankenstein myth with issues and concerns facing Black people in current America. He also balances a gore-soaked horror story with a good deal of heart. The special effects range from the gruesome — the stitching together of a face is one particular example — to the gleefully fun, as when Vicaria’s electrical experiments affect a nearby power station.
Vicaria is a flawed protagonist who has her heart in the right place and like the Frankenstein doctors and their spin-offs before her, she finds herself having no authority over her creation. As the film’s title The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster implies, she has rage that can be dangerous if she doesn’t get it under control, with results that can be murderous to her and her loved ones. Hayes carried this lead role wonderfully, and she is aided by a strong supporting cast that includes Chad L. Coleman as Vicaria’s father, Denzel Whitaker as gang member Kango, and Amani Summer as Jada, a little girl who provides both cute and creepy moments in this strongly recommended film.(4 / 5)
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster screened as part of Boston Underground Film Festival, which took place from March 22–26, 2023.